PETRUNYA: The ironically unpredictable world of predictions

Max Petrunya

Last year, I made my writing debut in The Villanovan with a column singing the praises of LeBron James and positing an argument for why he would be crowned NBA MVP. The prediction, while not too bold, was wrong … dead wrong. Steve Nash was named last season’s MVP, and I began a year-long writing career filled with bold predictions that more often than not didn’t come true.

But through my coverage of nearly every major college and professional sport, writing baseball previews where I predicted every playoff team in the AL would win the World Series or picking the Georgetown Hoyas to win the NCAA tournament and the Pittsburgh Panthers to make it to the Final Four, I have learned a lot about athletics and pre- and postseason predictions. Perhaps the most valuable lesson I have gleaned from being engrossed in writing, watching and debating sports is that they, like life, are unpredictable.

Who would have guessed the Steelers would win the Super Bowl as a No. 6 seed in 2005? Or that the Phillies and 76ers would each make playoff runs after trading their best players (Bobby Abreu and Allen Iverson, respectively)?

The fact remains that no matter how much we know, or think we know, there is no foolproof way to predict the final standings or eventual world champions of any given league. We may make educated guesses, some more educated than others (my guesses more often than not falling into the latter category), but until the last pitch is thrown or the final horn sounds, nothing is definite.

As sports writers, we make predictions before, during and after each season about myriad issues – a division winner, MVPs, scoring leaders, the most improved players … the list goes on. We all, whether consciously or subconsciously, make predictions like these when it comes to our lives: what career will I choose, who will I marry, when will I get married, what will I study in school. We try to make predictions about every major aspect of our lives, but we don’t know if they will come true until we play the game and live our lives.

And just like in sports, we must deal with uncertainty. The star player gets injured … there goes a shot at the title. We unexpectedly fail our test … our chance at law school is out the window. We are our own general managers. Our goal is to win the title and achieve our goals. We must deal with and adapt to the roadblocks put in our way. The NCAA tournament wouldn’t be nearly as exciting if a No. 11 seed didn’t beat a No. 6. Neither would our lives if they all played out like the storybook we envision. It is dealing with adversity that builds character and makes us stronger individuals. It is our strong character that keeps our goals in sight and, eventually, however long it may take, gets us to the pinnacle of our preseason predictions.

Cat Stevens wrote in his song “Sitting” that “Life is like a maze of doors, and they all open from the side that you’re on.” And like a maze, or a sport’s season, our lives have a definitive start and finish. We know where we begin and where and how we would like to end the maze that is our lives. Reaching the end, though, may take us in many different directions through different doors we never thought possible. Regardless of the doors we pass through, however hard or easy they are to open, we can always pass through to the other side if we pull hard enough. Eventually, we will reach the end of our personal and professional maze, with many exciting, trying experiences along the way to achieving our ultimate ambition.

Villanova has overprepared all of us to navigate the mazes we will enter when we leave school. Never give up, never lose sight of your goals and never fear the unpredictability that awaits. Just as we enjoy and embrace the emotion and volatility of college and professional sports, so too must we always learn from the unpredictable aspects of our lives.

Thank you to everyone for your continued support throughout the year. The opportunity to write about sports, one of the things in my life I am truly passionate about, every week for the consumption of the entire Villanova community has been one of the greatest unpredictable events in my life that I have embraced with immense enthusiasm.

Good luck in all your future endeavors, and God bless.

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Max Petrunya is a senior political science major from Pittsburgh, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected]